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Atlanta Hawks game thread: A share of first place on the line

Vivlamore (a little weary) reporting.

The Hawks have another chance to claim first place in the Southeast Division tonight. With a victory over the Bobcats, the Hawks would match the 14-6 record of the Heat. A loss to the Heat Monday prevented the Hawks from overtaking Miami for the division lead and second place in the Eastern Conference.

Coach Larry Drew said he wants his team concentrating on the task at hand.

“I really haven’t been paying attention to standings,” Drew said. “I’ve just been trying to really focus game by game. I know when we went down there and had an opportunity we came up short. After that Miami game, I told our guys let’s not concern ourselves with standings and what people are saying. Let’s go out and take it a game at a time and try to play our best basketball.”

In other news:

* Forward Josh Smith is eighth in fan voting for frontcourt players in the Eastern Conference. The NBA released its first balloting update Thursday and Smith had …

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Atlanta Hawks: Hawks 86, Magic 80 (updated)

Vivlamore reporting.

It was supposed to be easy. The Hawks made it look that way – at least for 45 minutes.

The Hawks used fast starts in the first and third quarters but had to hold on to defeat the Magic 86-80 Wednesday night at the Amway Center.

The Hawks (13-6) defeated the Magic for the eighth consecutive game, including both meetings this season. It was also the Hawks’ 10th win in 12 games, concluding a 2-1 road trip.

The Hawks built a 19-point third-quarter lead but had to withstand a Magic rally in the final three minutes of the game. Keeping big leads has been an issue for the Hawks this season and the problem reared its ugly head again.

“For our team, we are going to have to learn to develop a killer instinct when we get a team down,” Hawks coach Larry Drew said. “Right now, we don’t have it. We bobble too many balls. We miss too many fast-break opportunities. We have too many defensive breakdowns when we get leads. We allow teams to get back into games. …

Continue reading Atlanta Hawks: Hawks 86, Magic 80 (updated) »

Atlanta Hawks game thread: Morrow to start vs. Magic; Pachulia warned for flop (updated)

UPDATE: Anthony Morrow will start for the Hawks. He will be joined by Jeff Teague, Devin Harris, Josh Smith and Al Horford. Coach Larry Drew pressed with Kyle Korver coming back from injury and wanting to rest DeShawn Stevenson in order to play him Thursday against the Bobcats. Drew expects Korver to play about 20 minutes.

Pachulia on flop warning: “It’s a rule so you have to respect the game, respect the rules. Honestly, my first reaction because I saw the elbow coming was just to try to get out of the way because I was so close. I wasn’t trying to flop there but if you look at the film it’s obvious it looks like I was flopping. I was just trying to get out of the way. If the elbow came, I would rather take the $5,000 fine than a broken jaw.

Vivlamore reporting.

ORLANDO — Even with the returns of Kyle Korver and Mike Scott, the Hawks will be a little short-handed tonight against the Magic. DeShawn Stevenson likely will not play in the first game of a back-to-back schedule. …

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Smith on Smith: Steve says ‘travesty’ Josh never All-Star

Vivlamore reporting.

I’m working on a story on why Josh Smith has never been an All-Star despite his career numbers. I don’t want to jump the gun too much but I wanted to share what Steve Smith, the former Hawk (himself an All-Star with the team) and Hawks broadcaster, had to say on the subject when I spoke with him recently.

“I’ve spoke candidly about it, especially last year (when Josh wasn’t named a replacement for Joe Johnson),” Steve Smith said. “There is not another player like that. There are a lot of unique players, like a LeBron James. There are some guys in a class of their own. What he’s done, at power forward, basically with no backup. They have been thin for years trying to find some guys behind Josh and Al. I think Ivan Johnson, Jason Collins have filled in and done a wonderful job. Here is a player who plays at 6-8, undersized, leads the team in block shots. At times, leads them in rebounding. He guards his guy tremendously. He guards a guy who plays out on …

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Video: Atlanta Hawks looking to sustain winning ways

The Atlanta Hawks have won 8 of their last 10 games. CineSport’s Justin Shackil & the AJC’s Chris Vivlamore discuss Atlanta’s success & how Kyle Korver’s return from injury will impact the team.

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Video: Hawks go for eight wins in nine games vs. Wizards

Vivlamore reporting

The Atlanta Hawks have won seven of their last eight games. CineSport’s Brian Clark & The AJC’s Chris Vivlamore discuss the Hawks’ recent success & the Hawks’ undersized roster.

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Atlanta Hawks: Smith on verge of statitistical milestone

Vivlamore reporting.

* The Hawks are off today prior to opening the regular season Friday against the Rockets. Here is my story on Josh Smith that will appear in Friday’s print edition of the AJC. A special note of thanks to the Hawks’ crack PR staff for providing the names below of all 23 players in NBA history to have amassed 10,000 points, 5,000 rebounds, 2,000 assists and 1,000 blocks. The check is in the mail.

Josh Smith admits the chip is still squarely on his shoulder – even as he piles up statistics few in NBA history have amassed.

If he remains healthy for his ninth season Smith will become the 24th player in league history to reach 10,000 points, 5,000 rebounds, 2,000 assists and 1,000 blocks. There are only eight players to do it with one team.

Hawks forward Josh Smith reacts after a Game 1 victory over the Celtics in the playoff last season.

Hawks forward Josh Smith reacts after a Game 1 victory over the Celtics in the playoff last season.

Smith has career totals of 9,044 points (needs 956), 4,768 rebounds (needs 232), 1,849 assists (needs 151) and 1,304 …

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Atlanta Hawks practice report: Horford, Smith interim captains

Vivlamore reporting from Hawks practice.

A couple quick notes to pass on from today’s workout.

* Coach Larry Drew said he has yet to decide team captains and will take 7-10 days to think about it. In the meantime Al Horford and Josh Smith, both on the captains committee last season, will serve in the positions.

* Drew again declined to reveal his starting lineup for Friday’s season-opener against the Rockets. “I’m going to sleep on it tonight,” Drew said with a coy smile. “I will tell you tomorrow that I’ll be sleeping on it tonight.”

* Center Johan Petro (back) did not practice for the third straight day. He worked with the team’s training staff on the side. “He is getting better,” Drew said.

* Forward Mike Scott returned to practice after missing Tuesday’s workout with flu-like symptoms.

* Drew sat down with each player to discuss their role with the team this season. “I really wanted to wait until we got our roster down before I did that,” he …

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Atlanta Hawks: Reasons for optimism (updated)

Vivlamore reporting before Hawks practice Wednesday.

I’ve spent the last couple of days thinking about the reasons the Hawks have to be optimistic about the upcoming season. There were so many changes in the offseason, from the front office to nine new players. What is to prevent this team from taking a step backward with all those changes, including the loss of a six-time All-Star?

So I asked.

Here is what coach Larry Drew and three of the five returning players had to say when I asked “What makes you optimistic about this season?”

Larry Drew

“I think we are going to give ourselves a chance every single night because we have guys who can score the basketball. Where we have to become better, to become more of a unit, is on the defensive end. We have to make more of a commitment as a unit on the defensive end. Yeah, we have a lot of shooters. We have speed. We have quickness. But I tell these guys every day that we cannot hang our hat on just that. We have to be a team that …

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Atlanta Hawks: Five things learned from the preseason (updated)

Vivlamore reporting from Hawks practice.

With the Hawks’ regular-season opener just three days away, here are five things we’ve learned after a month of training camp and exhibition games.

1. New offense modifications

With a roster of new players, just five returnees, coach Larry Drew set about re-writing his offensive playbook. There was speed at the guard position and a depth of outside shooters to employ.

The offense struggled at times during exhibition games as players – new and old – worked to implement the new system. Drew and his staff have spent several practices since the final exhibition game going over what has already been put in place. There is more offense to install. In all, the Hawks scored 92 or more points in six of their seven exhibitions.

Drew has tweaked his playbook since getting an up-close look at his roster and seeking player input. He modified it based on such things as what side of the court or angle a player prefers to run an offensive …

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